Thursday, October 16, 2008

The eagerly anticipated Mega Man 9 is reviewed:

Mega Man 9

In an era of HD graphics, 7.1 digital surround sound, and international connectivity, Capcom (in a move that could only be described as the ultimate in fan-service) has opted to instead release the first numbered Mega Man game to appear in over twelve years in true ‘High Fidelity 8-Bit graphics.’

Old-school fans rejoice.

Capcom went all out recreating the look and feel of classic Mega Man while still adding a few new features (leaderboards, time trials, etc.) to keep it fresh. But rest assured that everything that made the classic games great is back: the music, the ‘choose your own path’ style, and of course, the maddening difficulty-but I’ll get to that later.

Mega Man 9 begins exactly as you would expect it to if it were released in 1987. Upon starting the game, you are first introduced to the story as presented through 8-bit animation and intentionally corny dialogue, followed by the familiar stage select screen where you get to choose which of the eight stages to challenge first. As in the classic games, each stage carries it’s own theme (water, outer space, etc.) and boss who, upon defeat, relinquishes his/her specific power to Mega Man for him to use in subsequent stages.

All of the stages are unique, each offering its own respective enemies and gimmicks to keep the game from becoming too repetitive. Each stage’s boss is also very cool, and fans will be happy to hear that this time around they share more in common with the bosses of Mega Man 1, 2, and 3, than they do of some of the more ridiculous bosses of the later games (Pharaoh Man, anyone?). Unfortunately, the power-ups that you receive from each defeated boss share a lot in common with some of those received in previous games, but that is to be expected when the franchise can boast upwards of 72 separate bosses.

In addition to the main game, Capcom has added a few welcome modern touches to keep the game fresh. A time trial mode complete with leader boards where the player can compare his skills with others across the world has been added. There is also a Challenges list added to the main game to up the ante and encourage bragging rights. These reward you for doing things like beating the game without taking any damage or beating the game five times in one day (ouch). Capcom has also promised forthcoming downloadable content such as a ‘survival mode’ and a Proto-Man mode where the player can play as the enigmatic Proto-Man.

All of these are nice additions, but what makes Mega Man such a fun title has always been the brutal difficulty and addictive gameplay. Two buttons: shoot and jump. If this sounds straightforward, it is. But Mega Man hasn’t become one of gamings most venerable franchises by taking it easy on you. This game will drive you nuts. Period. And it is in this regard that Capcom nails what they set out to do.

Mega Man 9’s difficulty will bring out the eight year old in you. You will find yourself wanting to toss your controller in frustration and cursing the heartless men who developed this game. Yet, believe it or not, you will come back for more. While it isn’t breaking any ground or changing the way we approach games, the fact is that this game is just plain old-school fun. Whether an old fan, or new to the franchise, this game will not disappoint.

9.0 out of 10

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